Jonah 1-4

God calls Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh. These people were the oppressors of Israel, and Jonah did not want to go. The story is familiar—Jonah runs, gets swallowed by a big fish, gets vomited up by the big fish, finally obeys God, the people repent, and God relents. People focus on the miraculous aspect of the fish, but sometimes what gets glossed over is the miraculous response of the people of Nineveh—they repented.  A hard-hearted bunch of pagans repented.  The enemies of God’s people repented.

Sometimes we get so blinded by how we think people will respond, we forget what God can do. It was the word of God that changed the people’s hearts. Jonah was a reluctant prophet, but he was obedient nonetheless.  It is hard to imagine that his sermons were particularly compelling. We should trust in the power of God’s Word, not in the power of our delivery. The only way we can be sure that people will not accept God’s Word is if we don’t share God’s Word. If we will just be faithful to share God’s Word with others, God will work wonders.

Some thoughts to prayerfully consider:

  • Who is God calling you to minister to that you find difficult? In what ways are you running from God’s calling on your life?
  • Jonah’s hesitancy to share was, in large part, due to his lack of love for people. How can you grow in your love for others?
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Obadiah

The little book of Obadiah deals with the big sin of pride. The message of the book is that God is going to judge Edom for its pride. Pride is dangerous because pride deludes our reality—Edom thought they had control (2-4) and that they were were safe (5-7). Pride also affects our relationships—we look down on others and fail to care for our neighbor because we are too consumed with our selves and we mistreat others. Interestingly, it would be the proud Herod, an Edomite, who would seek to conquer, but the humble Christ would be the one who prevailed and who reigns forever as the King of Kings!

Some thoughts to prayerfully consider:

  • Do you see any signs of pride in your life? What are some antidotes to pride?

 

What does humility look like in your life?

Amos 6-9

Too often Christians dismiss this warning of coming judgment that is so prevalent in the prophets as only needed in another era. Certainly many preachers and Christians have abused the idea of judgment by speaking of nothing but judgment. However, we can never argue against something because of its misuse. Speaking of judgment can seem like a dated message. Christians will frequently speak as if judgment is antithetical to the work of Jesus, as if should not speak of judgment. Jesus’ work came to save us from judgment and to provide a means to avoid judgment, but it does not mean that judgment does not come.

We ought to take a cue from the frequent warnings of judgment in the Old and New Testament and imitate that in our own life. God’s love provides ample warning for judgment, but God’s holiness demands that sin be judged. Christ has come to take the judgment for our sin and provide for us the righteousness we need. Notice even the parallel between the judgment described in Amos 8:9 with the sun turning dark at noon and the crucifixion of Jesus (cf. Mark 15:53).

Some thoughts to prayerfully consider:

  • Amos says “Woe to those at ease in Zion” (6:1). Why is it dangerous to be at ease sometimes? Are you ever guilty of this?
  • Even though we may not face physical judgment (9:1-4), sin can still bring a spiritual drought (8:11-12) into our lives. Is there anything you need to repent of in order to end such a drought? How can you prevent such a time of spiritual deprivation?

Amos 1-5

God’s words to Israel are shockingly blunt, “I hate your feasts” (5:21). God’s word is that the so-called “worship” of the people was empty apart from a relationship with him. The people wanted all of the benefits of being the people of God, but they cared little for God himself. They disregarded his Word (4:1; 5:1, 10). Their lives were immoral (5:11-12. 15. 24). In short, they presumed on God’s grace. They thought they could live in God’s “house,” but live by their rules. Many times we still find ourselves guilty of the same attitude—we spend our lives trying to expand our kingdom and not his. To seek to be God’s people and live under his rule is to totally submit ourselves to him and to love him wholeheartedly.

Some thoughts to prayerfully consider:

  • How is disobedience an outright rejection of God’s Word (2:4)? Does that seem too strong to call disobedience rejection?
  • One of the sins of Israel is that they put possessions above people (2:6-8). How do we do this? In what ways are you tempted to do this?

Joel 1-3

The book of Joel is a notice of the coming “Day of the Lord.” The “Day of the Lord” would be a time of disaster for those in rebellion against God and a great comfort to those in relationship with God. Joel describes a locust plague that will be emblematic of the destruction that God’s judgment will bring. However, such judgment will not be permanent. Such judgment is prevented by a repentant heart. There would be a far greater blessing than God simply restoring material possessions.  Joel says in 2:28-32 that God is going to pour out his Spirit on all his people, not just the prophets and kings. This was fulfilled in Acts 2. This blessing of the Spirit of God is available to us all through faith in Christ.

Some thoughts to prayerfully consider:

As Joel speaks of judgment we see several diagnostic questions to ask ourselves:

  • In what do we find our greatest pleasure? (1:5-7)
  • In what do we find our security? (1:8-10)
  • In what do you place your worth? (1:11-12)

Hosea 10-14

One of the more curious statements of the Bible was that Jesus’ sojourn in Egypt as an infant was to fulfill what the prophet [Hosea] said (Matthew 2:15). Of course Matthew is referring to the words of Hosea in 11:1 and the following chapter. What did Matthew mean here? Hosea is reminding Israel that as they are facing an exile, so too before did the people of God have to sojourn in another land. Matthew is writing to a people who too may feel forgotten. Jesus came to deliver us. Jesus fulfilled all the expectations of the Exodus and of exile. Jesus was the Passover lamb that provided us deliverance. Jesus was the one who brought us into rest. It is Christ who provides spiritual nourishment for his people as God provided physical nourishment. It is Christ who gave a new law and who fulfilled the law that was given on Sinai. All that Christ did is what Hosea looks to and what we may look at to sustain us and give us hope.

Some thoughts to prayerfully consider:

  • Read 11:8-9. What does this tell you about God’s love? How does it make you feel to be loved by the creator of the universe, and the one against whom you have sinned, with a love like that?
  • We do not face the threat of exile due to our sin? Is that a greater or lesser motivation to righteousness and obedience?

Hosea 5-9

Hosea 6:7 compares the sin of Israel to the sin of Adam. Just as Adam’s sin caused Eve and him to be exiled from the land God had given them, so Israel would be exiled from the land of Canaan. However, just as with Adam, so Israel’s greatest punishment would not be the expulsion from the land, but the break of fellowship with God. What is tragically sad is that Israel does not seem to care. Even though their sins are before God’s face (7:2), no one is seeking help from him (7:7, 10), in fact they have once again resorted to idols (8:5-6). The only thing more tragic than having God’s presence removed from your life is to have it removed and not realize it.

Some thoughts to prayerfully consider:

  • What does it mean to “press on to know the Lord” (6:3)? How can you achieve this?
  • Are you ever guilty of “forsaking God” (9:1)?